Confirmed plenary presenters are: 

Philipp Engel & Emma Slack 

Philipp Engel
University of Lausanne

Philipp Engel is an Associate professor at the Department of Fundamental Microbiology of the University of Lausanne, Switzerland. His research interests lie in animal-microbe symbiosis and microbial evolutionary genomics. His lab’s primary focus is on the gut microbiota of social bees, but he also looks into other microbial ecosystems such as the human lung or Swiss cheese.

Philipp Engel received his PhD from the University of Basel, Switzerland, where he studied the genomic basis of host adaptation of bacterial pathogens in the group of Christoph Dehio. In 2011, he joined the group of Nancy Moran at Yale University, USA, as an SNSF and EMBO postdoctoral fellow. This is when he became interested in microbiome research and started to work on the bee gut microbiota. In 2014, he returned to Switzerland to establish his own group at the University of Lausanne. He currently acts as the Deputy director of the NCCR Microbiomes, a national research consortium focusing on microbiome research.

Fields of expertise:
Animal-microbe symbiosis, Microbial genomics/metagenomics, Gut microbiota

Prof. Emma Slack
Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health, D-HEST, ETH Zürich

Prof. Emma Slack is a British/Swiss scientist who trained in Cambridge, London, Hamilton (Onatario) and Bern before joining the ETH Zürich departments of Health Sciences and Technology. Her group applies a range of quantitative techniques to understand how the immune system works in the context of complex microbial communities at our mucosal surfaces, and to develop techniques that leverage immunity to manipulate microbiome composition.

Fields of expertise:
Intestinal Immunology and host-microbiota interactions

Laura Eme
CNRS - Université Paris-Saclay

My primary research interests are in evolutionary microbiology. I have a strong background in evolutionary bioinformatics and have examined problems related to the origin and genome evolution of eukaryotic microbes and archaea. I have obtained my PhD at the University of Aix-Marseille with Céline Brochier-Armanet (France) before doing a postdoc at with Andrew Roger at Dalhousie University (Canada) and Thijs Ettema at Uppsala University (Sweden). Since 2019, I have been a PI at the University Paris-Saclay as part of the Diversity, Ecology and Evolution of Microbes team.

Fields of expertise:
Microbial evolution, origin of eukaryotes

Prof. dr. Thijs J.G. Ettema
Wageningen University & Research
The Netherlands

Thijs J. G. Ettema (1977) is an evolutionary microbiologist at Wageningen University (The Netherlands) where he heads the Laboratory of Microbiology. His research focuses on the exploration of microbial diversity with next-generation genomics and various cultivation approaches. He received his PhD at Wageningen University in 2005. After a brief postdoctoral stay at the Radboud University in Nijmegen (The Netherlands), he moved to Uppsala University (Sweden) in 2006, where he was appointed as associate professor at the Department of Cell and Molecular Biology in 2014. In 2019, he was appointed as chair professor at Wageningen University. His research group has a broad research focus and works on a variety of scientific questions connected to microbial diversity and evolution that cover all Domains of Life, as well as viruses. One overarching theme in his research involves studying evolutionary transitions, including the origin of complex cells types (eukaryotes). His research group discovered a new group of archaea, the Asgard archaea, providing new, compelling evidence that complex cellular life evolved from an archaeal ancestor that already contained several eukaryotic traits. Thijs Ettema is the recipient of the 2007 Kluyver award by the Royal Dutch Society for Microbiology, he was named ‘Future Research Leader’ by the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research in 2012, and was elected EMBO Young Investigator by the European Molecular Biology Organization in 2016. His research is, amongst others, funded by the European Research Council.

Fields of expertise:
Microbial evolution, eukaryogenesis, phylogenomics, symbiosis, metagenomics, archaeal (cell) biology, culturomics

Tiedje Award Winner

Ken Nealson
Wrigley Professor of Environmental Studies, University of Southern California, United States
Professor of Earth Science and Biological Sciences

I received my training in biochemistry (BS), botany (MS), and microbiology (Ph.D.) from the University of Chicago, all in the 1960s, After a postdoc at Harvard, where I worked with Woody Hastings, I took a position at Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO), focusing on gene regulation of bioluminescent bacteria – work that led to the understanding of quorum sensing. During these early years, I was a teacher in each of the first three Marine Microbial Ecology summer courses where I lectured and ran one of the laboratory sessions. At SIO, with the influence of excellent geochemists, I became interested in the role of marine bacteria in metal (Mn and Fe) cycling – an interest that has continued even into my retirement. After 12 years at SIO, I moved to a position as a distinguished professor at the Center for Great Lakes Studies in Milwaukee, where I continued studies of Mn oxidizing bacteria, and began studies on Mn reducing organisms in the group Shewanella. This work morphed into the study of electromicrobiology, microbial biofuel cells, and multiheme cytochromes that are used to reduce insoluble substrates outside the cell via extracellular electron transport (EET). After 12 years in Wisconsin, I moved to the Jet Propulstion Lab (JPL) and Caltech to set up an astrobiology group, and participate as a project scientist on a Mars mission for 4 years. At the end of this mission effort, I was offered the Wrigley Chair of Environmental Sciences at USC, where I spent nearly 20 years before retiring in May of 2019. The USC years have included all of the areas discussed above, with great colleagues, students, and postdocs – all of whom have taught me more than I have taught them.

Fields of expertise:
Microbial physiology,Microbial ecology,Recognizing colleagues with expertise I lack

Dianne Newman
California Institute of Technology
United States

Dianne Newman is the Gordon M. Binder/Amgen Professor of Biology and Geobiology at Caltech, where she began her independent career in 2000. Her research focuses on microbial stress responses, with an emphasis on mechanisms of energy conservation and survival when oxygen is scarce. The contexts that motivate her research span chronic human infections to the rhizosphere, yet are linked by similar physiological questions; she is particularly fascinated by colorful redox-active metabolites and their myriad effects. After getting a BA in German Studies at Stanford University, Dianne earned her PhD in Environmental Engineering at MIT with Francois Morel, a geochemist, and trained as a postdoc at Harvard Medical School with Roberto Kolter, a bacterial geneticist. Just goes to show you never know where your path in life will take you! With Prof. Jared Leadbetter, she co-directed the Microbial Diversity summer course at the Marine Biological Lab from 2014-2017. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology, a Member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and a Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. These honors reflect the work of her lab over many years, and Dianne is most proud of her current and former trainees, who continue to make innovative contributions to science all over the world. Currently, she is leading the Ecology and Biosphere Engineering Initiative for Caltech’s Resnick Sustainability Institute and recently joined the Scientific Advisory Committee of the EMBL to advise their microbial ecosystems and planetary biology programs.

Fields of expertise:
Microbial metabolism, physiology, genetics, environmental science

Ken Takai

Director General of Institute for Extra-cutting-edge Science and Technology Avant-garde Research (X-star). I call myself as “Mr. DEEP-SEA Exploration”. Basically, a microbiologist, but sometimes a geochemist or a geologist. Occasionally, astrobiologist. I am also a book writer, a twitterer and a youtuber, too. 

Fields of expertise:
Microbial Ecology in Extreme Environments, Astrobiology

Young Investigator Award Winner

Kelly Wrighton
Colorado State University
United States

Kelly Wrighton is an Associate Professor at Colorado State University, where her laboratory strives to uncover (often poorly annotated) metabolisms that play in roles in modulating organismal interactions and contribute to emergent ecosystem properties. We describe our efforts as ecosystem agnostic, as every environment offers new perspectives on the ‘knobs’ that control microbial community metabolism. Currently we are using microbiome knowledge to illuminate microbial inputs to soil health for enhanced crop management, methane emissions from wetlands to improve climate model predictions, and microbial gastrointestinal contributions to human disease. Kelly’s career started in industry, where she exploited microbial physiological knowledge for medical diagnostics and bioremediation purposes. These applied experiences inspired her doctoral research with Dr. John Coates (UC Berkeley), focused on anaerobic physiology of microbial fuel cells, and her post-doctoral training with Jill Banfield (UC Berkeley) using omics technologies to discover the first metabolic understanding of the bacterial Candidate Phyla Radiation (CPR). Today the Wrighton lab blends ecosystem measurements with microbial insights gleaned from multi-omics data from field-scale and physiological deductions to interrogate the underpinnings of carbon and nutrient chemical exchanges. Kelly is a PECASE (USA Presidential award) awardee, a fellow of the American Geophysical Union, and International Society of Geobiology awardee. These honors reflect the cross-disciplinary research conducted in the Wrighton lab, executed by inspired, creative scientists both inside the lab and by a wide team of external collaborators, with whom Dr. Wrighton proudly shares this award.

Fields of expertise:
genome-enabled technologies, anaerobic metabolisms, team-oriented science